Renowned authors who were once ridiculed


By Frederick Mordi


“Stick to teaching,” they told Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women. She did not heed their advice. She believed in her herself and her book, which would go on to become a best-seller.

Ernest Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring, received cold reception when it got to a publisher’s desk: “It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.” If Ernest gave up, his popular novel, The Old Man and the Sea, which you may have read in secondary school, would not have seen the light of day. By the way, he also won a Nobel Prize in Literature.

“An absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull,” was the verdict publishers gave to William Golding’s The Lord Of The Flies, also read in secondary schools in Nigeria.

“I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say,” was the terse reply a publisher dispatched to Joseph Heller, in rejecting his novel, Catch-22. Joseph ignored the sarcastic remark and persevered until he became successful.

“I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language,” Rudyard Kipling, an English short story writer, poet and novelist was told by a rather rude editor. Kipling became one of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century.

“You have no business being a writer and should give up,” was the terse reply Zane Grey, an American dentist turned writer of Western fiction received from a publisher. As of 2012, 112 films had been made from his works.

“Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling,” a publisher said of Dr. Seuss, one of the future top 10 best-selling fiction author of all time, when he reviewed his manuscript.

“An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book,” said a publisher as he tore to pieces, The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells. Wells wrote The Time Machine, a classic piece that is still referenced today.

“He hasn’t got any future,” was the mordant reply of a publisher who reviewed The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, written by John le Carré. The book later became a success story.

“This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish,” must surely be the unkindest cut of all. That was the harsh opinion of a publisher who rejected Crash by J.G. Ballard. The film adaptation of the work won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

It is doubtful if the world would have heard of George Orwell’s Animal Farm if Secker and Warburg had not published it, as other publishers including renowned author, T.S Elliot, then head of Faber and Faber, a publishing outfit, did not see the potential in the book at the time.

After spending three years writing A Time To Kill, John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 28 times, before he eventually struck a deal. What were the publishers thinking of when they rejected the book? Grisham is now a best-selling author with several films made out of his books!

J.K Rowling was advised to look for a job as there was no way one could make decent living in children’s books, after a dozen publishers rejected her work on Harry Potter. She was adamant. Today, she is the only billionaire writer on the Forbes’ list.

For eight years, Alex Haley got 200 rejections, until a publisher decided to take a closer look at his novel Roots. The rest is, as they say, history.

Even Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, one of the most popular books on modern African literature, which has been translated into many languages with a television version, did not receive much enthusiasm from publishers when he sent it to them, until Heinemann came to the rescue.

They all seem to have something in common: stubborn belief in their ability, determination to succeed and refusal to be intimidated.

These stories should serve as an inspiration for anyone facing rejection.




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2 responses to “Renowned authors who were once ridiculed”

  1. idoreyin Nzeh says :

    Very, very, inspiring, am inspired to pursue my dreams despite distractions. Keep it up Fred. Well done once more.

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